Mr. Blackwell has died at the age of 86. He deserves to be remembered for a couple of reasons. First, it can be argued that he was one of the pioneers of celebrity culture. He first started critiquing the fashion sense and style of Hollywood in 1960. It’s not a stretch to say that without Mr. Blackwell, there would be no Perez Hilton. Whether you view that as good or bad is besides the point. We live in a celebrity-obsessed society and Richard Blackwell was one of the forefathers of that movement.
Secondly, Mr. Blackwell is a strong example of someone who turned themselves into a personal brand, and a distinctive and strong one at that. A failed actor and little-known dress designer, Mr. Blackwell caught lightening in a bottle when he first critiqued the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Initially, the list was met with mild interest, but by the third year it was a major new story. The lesson – don’t give up if your idea isn’t an instant hit. He then spent the next several decades building his brand and to my knowledge never veered off into areas that would have been “off brand.”
Maybe Mr. Blackwell wasn’t your cup of tea, but his cultural impact is undeniable and his role as an early practitioner of the “Brand Called You” approach is underestimated.